NCACLS (National Council of Associations of Chinese Language Schools ) annual conference is a great place for ideas. I was in one a few years ago and I still remember that a teacher shared how she used kites to inspire her students and to build connections between learning Chinese language and doing scientific experiments.
A few days ago, I returned to this marvellous event, the eighth annual conference this time, sharing my idea to a roomful of (or rather, a screenful of) Chinese teachers from the other side of the world.
As COVID pandemic was slowly waning, this year’s event was actually a hybrid event running from July 29-31, 2022. There were teachers who physically went to Chapman University in California to attend the event, while others joined remotely. Those who were there had dinners together and face to face exchanges. That must be fun. For people who attended remotely, like me, missed it.
Still, I was grateful for this opportunity, especially grateful for the organisers for their kindness to give me a time slot that worked very well for me. It was also nice that I did not suffer backaches during the long flights, the jet lags or the bloated travelling expenses.
While I was online, I particularly liked a talk about gender perceptions in Chinese language teaching. The presenter said that she needed to select suitable materials that did not portray women in an idealised “beautiful” way. That was interesting, very relevant in today’s environment. Nowadays, computer generated “beauties” have tens of thousands of followers on social media and real women are so upset that they are not as pretty or don’t have as many followers as these “beauties”.
My own talk was around the importance of creativity in Chinese classes. I started from the second machine age, the excellent writings created by A.I., human creativity to why I organised the Chinese Writing Contest.
Then we had some discussions about the selection of these 320 characters and the published writings from last year’s candidates.
I was asked if this contest could be made into a contest using traditional Chinese characters. It is possible but there must be some modifications. The reason is that if we switch these 320 simplified characters to traditional ones, the number won’t be 320. It will be more, because there are some Chinese characters that have replaced two or more traditional ones. For example, “只” in the simplified system combined at least three characters in the traditional system, “隻”, “祗” and “只”. This way of combining characters was an important way in the simplification process.
From there we branched to the huge differences between “刘” and “劉”, “萧” and “蕭”, and how people who have these characters as their surnames could handle the different versions with ease.
That whole half an hour was great!
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